What is a Schengen Visa?
A Schengen Visa is a document issued by the appropriate authorities, a consulate or embassy, that permits you to enter and experience the Schengen Area which is made of 26 countries, including 22 European Union Member states and four other countries that are part of the European Free Trade Association, which are Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Lichtenstein. It allows you to visit any of the Schengen countries for a duration of up to 90 days in total within a period of six months.
The Schengen Area member countries are France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Austria, Greece, Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia Liechtenstein and Switzerland in 2008.
Schengen Visa Application Requirements
Documents required for Schengen visa Application
The complete list of documents can be found on the website of the consulate of the country you are planning to visit. If you do not find the list, you can require it from the consulate through email. During the processing time the consulate may, in individual cases, ask you to submit additional information or documents or you may be contacted for an interview. Make sure to submit them too, since the submission of the firstly required documents does not guarantee you will be granted with a visa.
The first thing that you should submit at the embassy or consulate of the country you wish to visit, is your passport. You should submit your original passport, not copies. The passport should fulfill some criteria, as follows:
- The passport must have at least two empty pages in order to affix visa.
- Must not be older than ten years (meaning it must be issued within the last 10 years).
- Must be valid for at least three more months after the date you plan to leave the Schengen territory.
You should be aware that your passport will remain at the embassy or consulate during the time your application is being processed.
Visa application form
You can download the Common Schengen Visa Application form from consular websites, download it HERE, or request one at the consular offices. Fulfill the information in capitals, print it twice and sign it at the end. The application from is available free of charges.
It asks for basic information as name and surname, date of birth, place and country of birth. It also asks per current nationality, sex, marital status and details about your passport details (as date of issue, expiration date, etc) information regarding the purpose of journey, the type of visa you are applying for (single entry, double entry or multiple entry), duration of intended stay, etc.
In case applicant is a minor the visa application must be signed twice by the legal guardian/s.
Photography that meets guidelines
There are specific requirements for photos that you submit for your Schengen visa application. First of all, you must submit two identical photos, one pasted on the application form and the other submitted loose.
The standards that photographs need to fulfill are set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and are the following:
- Must be no more than 6-months old and of high quality with no ink marks or creases.
35–40mm in width, taken with a digital camera, of high quality color and printed on photo-quality paper.
- Must show you looking directly at the camera.
- Must show your eyes open and clearly visible – no hair across your eyes.
- Must be color neutral and taken with a plain light-colored background.
- Must not show any shadows (in your face or the background) or flash reflections on your face and no red eye.
- Must show you alone (no chair backs, toys, busy backgrounds or other people visible).
If you wear glasses the photograph must show your eyes clearly with no flash reflection off the glasses, and no tinted lenses, It would be better if you could avoid heavy frames, and wear lighter framed glasses instead. Make sure that the frames do not cover any part of your eyes. Sunglasses are not allowed in the photographs.
You are not permitted to wear head coverings except for religious reasons. However, your face cannot be covered for any reason. Your facial features from bottom of chin to top of forehead and both edges of your face must be clearly shown in the photo.
Paid visa fees
The Schengen member countries have agreed on the cost of the visa fee, for all those who wish to apply in order to obtain a Schengen visa.
The general Visa fees are:
|35€||Children from the age of six years and below the age of 12 years old|
|Free||Children under the age of six|
The European Union has also concluded a Visa Facilitation Agreement with the nationals of Kosovo, Georgia, Russia and Ukraine, according to which agreement the citizens of these countries shall pay a lower fee of EUR 35.
Also, some other countries apply visa waivers to some other categories of people. Check the embassy or consulate in your country for more information in this regard.
After you pay the visa fee, you will be issued a receipt. Keep it because you will have to show it in order to collect your processed application.
In case of visa application rejection or if you withdraw your application, the fee will not get reimbursed. If you apply again for a visa, you will have to pay the visa fee again.
You can find out more details about the Schengen visa fees here.
Travel Medical Insurance
Every person that travels to the Schengen Zone, whether to one country or multiple, for one day or one month, he or she must have travel medical insurance. The Schengen Area member countries have agreed in the minimum coverage of travel medical insurance, which is 30,000 Euro per person.
The insurance has to cover the entire stay in the Schengen territory and all the expenses which might arise in connection with repatriation for medical reasons, urgent medical attention and / or emergency hospital treatment.
Applicants for a Schengen visa need to provide biometric data (fingerprints) when submitting an application. The biometric data of persons applying for a Schengen visa will be stored in a new Visa Information System (VIS).
Exempted from the fingerprinting requirements are the below mentioned categories:
- Children younger than twelve years old,
- Persons for whom the collection of fingerprints is physically impossible,
- Heads of State and members of National Governments, their accompanying spouses, and their official delegation when on an official visit
Once finger scans are stored in VIS, they can be re‐used for further visa applications over a 5‐year period, therefore frequent travelers to the Schengen Area do not have to give new finger scans every time they apply for a new visa.
Copies of previous visas
If you have traveled to the Schengen Zone before, with a passport that has already expired now (or is full), you should submit it together with the other documents to prove your travels. If you have more than two passport bring all of them. Do not staple them together, instead just tie them with a rubber band.
The travel itinerary is a detailed traveling plan to and from the destination country within the Schengen Area you want to get a visa to visit, as a booked flight reservation, a hotel booking, package tour etc. This does not mean you will have to purchase actual flight tickets before you receive your visa, only a flight reservation.
A cover letter
In a cover letter you explain your travel plan in details as when you plan to visit the country, where you will stay and what you will do.
Proof of accommodation
The proof of accommodation is a hotel booking usually. If you are planning to stay over at friends or family members, then you must submit a letter where they confirm it and explain that they have enough room for you. Depending on the country you are planning to visit, your host might also have to submit some extra documents as for example:
- In France the host must submit an original of the so called “Declaration d’Accueil” (guarantee document). The same applies if the host is from Luxembourg.
- In Austria the host must request the ‘“Elektronische Verpflichtungserklärung“ at his/her municipality in Austria. He or she has to deliver this document to the Austrian Authorities not earlier than 30 days before applicant’s visa appointment date.
- In Belgium the original “Engagement de Prise en Charge – Verbintenis tot Tenlasteneming 3 bis” must be stamped by the municipality and have the embossed stamp by the foreign office.
- Whereas in the Netherlands the host must submit the original “Bewijs van Garantstelling”, and also three salary sheets / reports and work contract of the inviting person. If the host is independent he or she must also submit the registration in the trade register of the company, the decision of taxation called “down aanslaginkomstenbelastingen”, an official document from the tax “Belastingdienst”, and its profit and loss account copy.
Proof of financial status
In order to be able to obtain a visa to one of the Schengen countries you must show evidence that you possess sufficient funds for the visit – that you will be able to financially maintain yourself during your stay in the Schengen territory. You should be able to prove that through a bank statement of the past three months, which must not be older than three days. The minimum amount required is different in each country, therefore you will have to consult with the relevant consular authority in your country.
Depending on your working status, you will have to submit some extra documents as follows:
- Evidence of student status – you have to prove that you are a student through some document. This could be the student card or a copy of the matriculation at the university and student index signed and stamped by the university and the current transcript of records. You will have to submit proof of sufficient funds for the entire stay in your destination country, that could be a work contract and bank account statement from your parents or host (if applicable).
- Evidence of employment – it can be an original signed letter from an employer or recent payslip.
You will have to submit your employment contract and a vacation confirmation from your employer, aside of the bank statement.
- Evidence of self-employment – a letter from a solicitor, accountant or Companies House, which confirms your status.
- Evidence of retirement – Pension statements over the last 6 months.
Extra Documents Required Depending on Visa Type
Depending on the type of visa you are applying for, you might need to collect extra documents as required. Above find some of the extra documents you will have to collect if you are applying for one of these types of visa.
Business Schengen visa
Aside of the documents mentioned above, in order for you to be able to obtain a Schengen business visa you will also have to submit some extra documents as listed below:
- A cover letter explaining the purpose of the visit to the Schengen country
- A short profile of the applicants working place
- A letter from the employer describing the purpose of the travel
- The invitation letter from the partner company in the Schengen zone (if applicable), which has to appear as an invitation to attend meetings or other relevant events matching trade, industry or work.
- If you are a journalist traveling to the Schengen Territory with the purpose of exercising your profession, you will need to submit a document from the employer stating the purpose of the mission and also a certificate issued by a professional organization.
- If you are a bus driver working for a travel company, you must submit a detailed certification of the itinerary containing the timetable, stops and duration and also a valid driving license. You will also be required to submit a proof of business relation (registry certificate, cooperation agreement, statements, etc.)
Medical Schengen Visa
Aside of the documents mentioned above, in order for an applicant to be able to obtain a Schengen medical visa he or she will also have to submit some extra documents as listed below:
- Accommodation – if the applicant is not staying in a hospital during the entire treatment, then a hotel booking or letter of confirmation by a friend or relative where the applicant is planning to stay
- Official confirmation of the treatment/appointment by the receiving medical institution (hospital/clinic)
- Evidence of sufficient financial means to pay for the medical treatment and related expenses (bank statement)
- A certificate from a medical doctor and/or a medical institution in the applicant’s home country confirming that the medical treatment is necessary
- Proof of advance payments of the treatment
Schengen Visa Requirements for Children Under 18
Children under 18, must submit an unabridged birth certificate alongside the other documents.
If the child is traveling alone, he or she must submit certified parental consent by both parents.
If the child travels with only one parent, the other parent must produce the notarized/certified consent.
In case the single parent with whom the minor will be traveling holds the paternal authority alone, the relevant court documents must be presented (death certificate, divorce agreement or custody agreement).
NOTE: Be aware that the embassies or consulates do not accept an application without a previous appointment and most of them do not give information about pending cases by email or phone.
Each embassy or consulate reserves the right to request additional documents during your appointment or later, and also to summon the applicant for another interview.